Donald Trump loves the New England Patriots, and the Patriots (or at least their owners, head coach, and star quarterback) love him back.
Quarterback Tom Brady infamously kept a “Make America Great Again” hat in his locker during the 2015 season. The following year, head coach Bill Belichick wrote a letter Trump read on-stage during a rally, gushing about how great the future president was. Owner Robert Kraft even gave the commander-in-chief a Super Bowl ring after the team won in 2017.
While most of the team’s fans probably don’t care too much about the political leanings of their favorite athletes — at least enough to affect how they feel about the game — some, very reasonably, do feel a bit conflicted.
So last year, two Patriots fans decided to put their own feelings of conflict to good use before the Super Bowl, raising $100,000 in the process.
Pats fans Josh Gondelman and Emma Sandoe came up with a brilliant idea in their quest to root for their problematic football fave: They’d donate money to a good cause every time the Patriots score.
Gondelman pledged $100 for every Patriots touchdown and $50 for every Patriots field goal to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, sending the group a total of $500. Sandoe pledged $5 to Planned Parenthood for every Patriots point, bringing her total to $170. Others jumped in on the action as well, making pledges in various amounts to various charities. By night’s end, according to Sandoe, people on the #AGoodGame hashtag had committed more than $100,000 to charity.
With the Patriots back in the Super Bowl, I caught up with Sandoe and Gondelman (full disclosure, I know Josh from Twitter — you should follow him) to see what they had in store for #AGoodGame, part two. They didn’t disappoint.
Asked why she thinks last year’s campaign took off the way it did, Sandoe says she believes “deep down people want an opportunity to turn negative feelings into something positive and constructive.”
“Certainly, being on Twitter, being politically active, or just being alive in 2018 can often feel like a negative experience, and this gave people that avenue to turn it into something positive, even without the football aspects,” she adds.
For this year’s iteration, the duo launched the A Good Game website, where people can log their own pledges for this year’s Super Bowl. The simple site, put together by Ronik Design, also offers a bit of background on the project as well as a list of some of Sandoe and Gondelman’s suggested charities.
This time around, Gondelman’s donations will be going to the Loyola Immigrant Justice Clinic, and Sandoe’s will support the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Being a sports fan in a politically heated year like 2018 can be tough, but we all have our ways of working through it.
The #AGoodGame campaign is just one of several examples of people dealing with some of the unease that happens when someone or something we love does something that makes us feel uncomfortable.
Take the 2016 World Series, for example. With the baseball season winding to a close, the Chicago Cubs looked like they had a legitimate shot at winning their first World Series championship since 1908. As they got ready to head into the playoffs, the team traded for Aroldis Chapman, one of the league’s best relief pitchers. Many fans cheered, convinced that Chapman would lead the team to victory; others were a bit more conflicted, though it had nothing to do with baseball.
At the tail-end of the 2015 season, Chapman allegedly fired a handgun eight times, once into the open window of a car, and choked his girlfriend. While he was eventually suspended for 30 games, he never quite owned up to his actions. The Cubs’ decision to acquire someone facing credible domestic violence allegations left some fans wondering whether it was worth winning a World Series if that was the cost.
Cubs fan Caitlin Swieca reconciled her love for the team with her disdain for domestic violence by launching #pitchin4DV, pledging $10 to domestic violence organizations every time Chapman recorded a save (one of the key stats for relief pitchers). Others joined in the movement, and helped raise $38,670. The Cubs did win the World Series that season, and Chapman did play a key role for the team down the stretch — and some really great charities made a bit of money along the way.
There’s an important lesson in all of this: If you look for it, there’s usually something positive that can come out of negative situations if you’re willing to act.
As the Chapman example showed, this isn’t just about Donald Trump. In fact, maybe you love Donald Trump. Either way, you can still get in on these #AGoodGame-type campaigns as well. Gamification can be a lot of fun, as anyone who’s ever owned a FitBit can confirm, and it’s part of why people love to play Fantasy Football so much. That’s the driving concept behind these campaigns: combining charity with sports for a better world. Give it a try!